When your child has a serious illness, the time may come when a cure isn't possible or when treatment to help your child live longer isn't working. You'll work with your child's doctor to create a care plan that will give your child the best quality of life. Your child can still receive medicines or other treatments to manage pain, anxiety, and other symptoms. Families also can have spiritual and grief counseling.
Hospitals usually have social workers and child life specialists who can help organize your child's care—in and out of the hospital.
Ask the doctor if your child can spend his or her remaining time at home. Many families want to take their child home. That's where their child can be most comfortable, surrounded by family members, pets, toys, and books. Other families may choose to have their child cared for in the hospital or in a hospice center.
Knowing that your child is going to die is devastating for parents and other loved ones. But you can find support and comfort from family and friends, doctors, nurses, counselors, and social workers.
If you want to talk, seek out close family members, friends, or spiritual advisers. You also can choose to have counseling. A counselor also can help the ill child and his or her siblings. You might try to approach a member of your child's health care team. It could be a doctor, but it may be a child-life specialist or a nurse.
Ask for help from family and friends, or have someone else ask for you. Your loved ones may want to do something to show their support. They can bring meals or clean your house. They can help give out information to others about your child's condition, so you don't have to keep telling other people what's happening.
Talking with your child
Many children with a serious illness know they're very sick and won't get better. What to say to your child may depend on your child's age and maturity. Even many younger children can understand that death is permanent. You may want to talk to your child alone or have the child's doctor or a spiritual adviser with you.
There's no right or wrong way to talk with your child about his or her illness. Some children want to talk about death, spiritual matters, and things they still want to do. But they may be afraid to say these things because they don't want their parents to feel sad.
Let your child know that it's okay to talk about his or her feelings. Asking open-ended questions (rather than yes-or-no questions) can help your child feel safe to talk. Follow your child's lead about how much he or she wants to share.
Talking with your child's siblings
A child's siblings may feel sad and scared knowing that they'll lose their brother or sister. Some siblings may feel guilty that they're healthy. They may fear that they also might get the illness. Spend some time alone with each sibling. Reassure them that they did nothing wrong and that you're glad they're healthy.